REVIEWED: Baritones UnBound
PERFORMED BY: Marc Kudisch, Mark Delavan, Jeff Mattsey, Timothy Splain
WHERE: Asolo Repertory Theatre, Sarasota, Fla.
DATE: June 26, 2014
RUNNING TIME: 2:30 (including 20-minute intermission)
Baritones UnBound: Celebrating the UnCommon Voice of the Common Man is an illuminating and thoroughly entertaining musical tour of the baritone voice throughout history.
The program was originally produced in Boston and conceived by Marc Kudisch, a Broadway leading man and three-time Tony Award nominee who has brilliantly created an evening in defense of the baritone voice. Focusing on the history and character of the baritone in classical and popular music, his work enhances his viewpoint that, somehow, there has been a move away from the baritone voice, on Broadway and elsewhere, for more than three decades.
Kudisch was joined onstage by dynamic baritones Mark Delavan and Jeff Mattsey, along with pianist and music director Timothy Splain, in a show that concluded a 26-day run at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Fla., on Sunday (June 29),
The show presented extremely well-performed numbers from time frames dating from the days of Gregorian chants and continuing through operatic history, Broadway and pop music, all with the aim of celebrating the origin, growth and prominence of the baritone voice and its emergence as the "revolutionary" sound of the common man.
While putting some of the most popular and significant musical compositions ever written into the spotlight, the cast members augmented their singing by interweaving an awesome amount of expertise in the form historical lessons regarding the baritone voice.
No other voice has defined the United States quite like the booming sound of the baritone. From Sinatra to Elvis and much more, this musical journey chronicles some of the most beloved singers and songs of all time.
Act One -- performed on a simple set that included three chairs in front of a background lending itself to video displays of song titles, dates, words and images of famous composers and baritones -- featured classic selections by composers such as Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Gilbert & Sullivan, and Rodgers & Hammerstein.
In Act Two, the jackets came off, ties loosened, and the singers drank beer while performing in a "man cave" setting that includes a leather sofa, a coffee table, a recliner and a piano. Those props were positioned in front of a wall full of photos of famous 20th Century baritones, including Broadway legends John Raitt and Alfred Drake, and vocalists such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Robert Goulet and Paul Robeson.
The classic "Old Man River" by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein was featured in both acts, and not only was the song belted out in a powerful and effective manner, there was a full and interesting explanation of the song's background and history. It was pointed out that whereas Robeson's rendition is arguably the best and most-remembered version, the song was actually recorded two months earlier by young crooner Crosby with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, and Kudisch croons that song, while Mattsey later delivered "White Christmas" in Crosby-like style.
Other Act Two highlights included the trio’s Sinatra-like rendition of “It Was a Very Good Year” and Kudisch’s interpretation of Elvis Presley's "It’s Now or Never.” But whether the singers performed individually, in tandem or as a trio, they utilized their distinctive voices and deliveries to provide a captivating evening of singing and showmanship.
Bottom line: The show had no disappointing features whatsoever, and the cast was fully deserving of fine rounds of applause throughout the performance and the standing ovation that brought an end to a stellar evening. And if Baritones UnBound comes to your area, it's a show that shouldn't be missed.
- To view a 30-second spot promoting the performance, click here.
- To view a "Get to know the cast" video, click here.
- To view a televised review by Sarasota Herald-Tribune theater critic Jay Handelman, click here.
- To go to the Baritones UnBound Facebook page, click here.
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